Improving Personal Hygiene and Water Conservation Among South African Children, a Pilot Test of Knowledge and Attitude Change: An Abstract
Dental hygiene and bathing are two of the most important hygiene behaviours that are essential for good health. However, over use of water can create water scarcity. This paper reports an evaluation that was undertaken for a trial programme delivered in a school setting. A mixed method approach was used to evaluate the programme combining a repeated measure survey design and a narrative written by programme participants. A total of 14 children participated in the programme from one poor community in South Africa, and data was collected from 9 students in the target age bracket primary school students 6–12 years of age.
The children participated in a range of taught and participatory activities relating to hygiene, water origin and consumption. After this participatory activity, the children were told about the importance of water conservation, and the methods to save water were reiterated in the lesson. This study had three research objectives: (i) to determine the teeth brushing and bathing behaviour of children living in a poor community in South Africa, (ii) to determine whether a 1-day education day could result in positive knowledge and attitude change and (iii) to determine whether a narrative study can extend evaluation for school-based programmes. Combining these objectives, this study aimed to increase positive hygiene behaviours such as brushing teeth and bathing while encouraging water conservation behaviour. This pilot has made several practical and methodological contributions to the field of social marketing. It uncovered a lack of knowledge among children living in a poor community in South Africa with regards to knowing how often and for how long they should be brushing their teeth and showering, providing important insights for water saving initiatives. Second, this study further supports the effectiveness of programmes delivered in school settings in achieving knowledge and attitudinal change which are important precursors for behavioural change. Given time and cost efficiencies, school-based programmes can offer in contrast to community-based programmes (McBride et al., 2004); social marketing programmes targeting 5–18-year-olds should consider school-based settings. Finally, this study indicates that thematic analysis of children’s narratives can provide a target audience centred understanding of key messages received by programme participants.